tv Dateline NBC NBC September 20, 2010 3:05am-4:00am EDT
my open heart surgery. i'm trying to pursue a diet that will make sure i don't have another incident. >> all right. we will leave it there. mr. president, as always, tnk you very much. good luck with cgi this week. >> thanks, david. up xt, in our "meet the press" minute, a look back at long-time nbc news man and occasional "meet the press" moderator, edwin newman. we'll look back at his first ever appearance on this program, july 10th, 1960, when he questioned presidential candidate john f. kennedy on the all-too-familiar topic of an economic recession. breathe in, breathe out. as volatile as markets have been lately, having the security of a strong financial partner certainly lets you breathe easier. for more than 140 years, pacific life has helped millions of americans build a secure financial future wouldn't it be nice to take a deep breath and rela
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so the- that's right,building cso we've got a list of things you can do to get active. - like jumping jacks. - or how 'bout push-ups? - sit-ups? - uh, maybe jumping rope? - yeah. or jogging. - uh, how abt like a wheelbarrow race? - oh, yeah, that's a great idea. - but imagine actually trying to use him as a wheelbarrow, like stacking bricks on him and doing, like, doo-doo-doo. you know what i mean? - oroga. - which is actually acefulnd quiet and not a lot of talking, so... - exactly.
is he still looking at me? and we are back with our "meet the press" minute. >> we learned this week of the death of long-time nbc news m edwin newman, who appeared on all programs across the news division. he was the bureau chief in london, rome and paris and later moveded tnew yk, where he became a regular member of the "today" show team. newman also served as moderator of this program more than 40 times ands a frequent panelist as well. in his first-ever appearance on the program july 10th, 1960, he interviewed presidential candidate john f. kennedy at the site of the democratic convention in los angeles. y suggested spending $2.5 billion on defense.
you said it would take some time r that money to be spent and make itself felt on the economy. do you conclude that a recession is inevitable? >> i hope it is not. i just say this is a very -- period of, which i should say, ought to be an alarm bell to us all, it bears resemblance to the summer of 57, but maybe more serious. there was a recession in '59, '54 and '58. we're talking about a slowown two years after the recession of '58. this administration cannot run on a program of domestic prosperity and if the real facts are pointed out. >> three years later, november 22nd, 1963, edwin newman would make the first announcement on radio o president kennedy's death. he died of pneumonia in what's around the corner is one of life's great questions. and while it can never be fully answered, it helps to have a financial partner like northern trust. by gaining a keen understanding of your financial needs,
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>> they were the final moments with her young son. >> i love you, mom. >> i love you, too. >> his body, later found in the river. had he found trouble while fishing? she didn't buy it. >> i knew that whoever did this i had trusted my son with. >> he didn't either. >> first thingou'd have took was your fishing pole. he didn't. >> years went by with no arrests, yet he made a vow >> it was murder and he would prove it. >> she kept the faith despite some outrageous theories. >> they asked if he drank. he's 11 years old. >> right. >> but could he keep his promise and find out what really happened to her son? >> i blamedyself for a long time because i let him go. >> a mother's mission to learn the truth. to hear that, what did it feel like for you finally? tonight, the case of the little
boy lost. good evening and welcome to "dateline." i'm ann curry. more than two decades ago a smart, loving little boy suddenly disappeared. his body was fond about three weeks later. despite an investigation plagued by missed opportunities and shaky witnesses the truth about what happened to him finally did come out and the moment you meet the boy's mother, you will understand why. >> flint, michigan where the steely flint river winds through the heart of car country. where on a beautiful spring day more than 20 years ago one little boy mysteriously vanished. how? why? years passed. decades. the water kept its secret. memory faded and evidence
disappeared until all that was left was one mother's lost and her fragmented dreams of her child calling her, hnting her, pushing her to find the truth about what happened to him. when chrispher alan brown was born in november, 1973, his mother, brenda, could not have been happier. was it love right away? >> oh, yeah. i just loved him with all my heart. >> brenda thought her baby looked especially good in yellow. >> he brought so much joy into my life. when alan was 1 brenda separated from his father and they later divorced. in 1978 she married an auto worker named harvey who says he was submmitten with her little . >> when i fell in love with her i fell in love with him. just as much my son and hers. i helped raise him and mold him into the little man we hoped he would become. >> alan excelled at school and
sports. he loved pac man, fishing,nd listening to his favorite songs. both brenda and harvey had good jobs on the assembly line at general motors. alan had one little brother and another on the way. alan's father justin brown had also remarried to a woman named roslyn and they had two little girls >> these sort of blended families where the is divorce it's kind of complicated who gets to see the children when. >> i was going to have primary custody and he had visitation. >> justin's sier said alan was close to his dad. >> loved spending time with his father on weekends or during school breaks. >> but the relationship between brenda and alan's step mom was tense. >> they didn't like each other at all but brenda would always let alan come over to his dad's house and spend time with him. she would never keep him back
from his dad. >> in 1985 alan was 11 when easter rolled around. brenda was surprised when he told her he did not want to spend the week at his father's as they had planned. >> his dad kept calling him. then he toldim i'm going to take you camping and fishing those were the magic words for your son right? >> yes. he packed up all his stuff. he was happy. he came over and hugged me and says, ilove you, mom. >> that is the last you saw of him was that day? >> yes. >> that was monday. on friday, brenda came home late and was alarmed to find her sisters waiting on her front porch. >> i rolled the window wrong. what's wrong? i know something is wrong for them to be at my house at 11:00. >> her sister said alan was missing and it was like, how can that be? missing from what? missing how? he's supposed to be with his dad. >> brenda called alan's father demanding to kno what happened.
he explained what he knew, that he and alan had not yet gone fishing and while he was at work that day his wife roslyn was home with the kids. she said at some point she bought mcdonald's, put it in the kitchn, told the children to go and eat and left. when she returned home a few hours later alan was missing. she looked for him around the neighborhood then called police. >> all i ce about right now is finding alan. >> while police launched an investigation brenda and her relatives organized a neighborhood srch party. >> we went door to door, talking to people, showing his picture. sking anyone if they seen him. everyone was saying no. >> sergeant francis tull had almost no trainings an investigator but suddenly found himself in charge of a major case. >> i get there and i start talking to the officers to find out what they had come up with.
>> sergeant tull's first thought wa run away or possible kidnapping and so the fbi was called in. tull says they worked together. every ld went nowhere. youprobably put together a profilef this child. who was that boy in your mind's eye? >> a missing, scared little boy. and we needed to find him. >> days passed with no sign of alan. frantic for help brenda did something she would do again and again in the years to come she called the local newspaper. the coverage reporter jeff smith was sent to her house. >> you could tell she was just drained but this was something she was determined to do. i have to find my child this story was one of jeff's first front page bylines but did not bring brnda any closer to her son. one week passed. brenda appeared on local tv. >> he wouldn't leave for no
reason. he just wouldn't get in the car with anybody. somebody had to take him. >> you must have had a lot of nversations with god during these really difficult days. what were you asking for, praying for? praying to get my baby back. but after about 17, 18 days -- >> what were you praying for then? i prayed the lord would give me his body so i could bury him. >> on april 30th, 18 days after alan disappeared, sergeant tull expanded his search efforts to include this peaceful bendn the flint river three miles from alan's father's home. by noon word came they had found a body. brenda's sad prayer had come true. >> with the clothing description, deep down you knew, you know, just your heart starts
sinking. >> reporter jeff smith raced to the scene. >> you could see law enforcement people out there with the tarp and the body bag. it was just very quiet, kind of solemn. >> what did you lose that day? >> a big chunk out of my heart. i lost all my dreams that i had for him. >> brenda's grief was overwhelming but so were her questions. alan was not the type of child to wander off. why had he been at the river and ow did he get there? discovering his body was just the beginning of a mystery that would haunt her for decades. >> it didn't make sense. none of it made sense. because if he wouldn't have went out there without permission, none of this was adding up. >> coming up, the investigatio begins and tips pour in about alan going off with a stranger, one resembling a known serial killer. >> how did they describe the
guy? >> white male, in his 30s. >> alan couldn't tell her what happened but what about a witness? >> sheives you a statement and basically said that she saw rosalind plying this kid with alcohol. did that set off alarm bells with you? had a key piece of evidence slipped through the cracks? when "cracked, the case of the little boy lost" continues. [ oman ] nine iron, it's almost tee-time... time to face the polle that used to make me sneeze... my eyes water. but now zyrtec®, the fastest 24-hour allergy relief, comes in a liquid gel.
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11-year-old alan brown was buried on may 6th, 1985. >> it was standing room only at that church. all his little friend were there and flowers. >> it looked like a terrible accident. alan could not swim. somehow he st have wandered over to the river and fallen in. a routine autopsy concluded the boy had died from accidental drowning. but that was not the end of it. >> came to me and asked me, did he drink? >> i said drink. >> he was 11 years old. the autopsy report came back with resus that were highly unusual. his blo alcohol level was 0.15 twice the level considered legally drunk for an adult. then there was a second reading, 0.07 for isopropol or
rubbing alcohol. the investigator in charge sergeant francis tull said he argued with the medical examiner tochange the cause of death to homicide but the m. refused. >> he felt that the young boy got into the parents' liquor cabinet or got with some friends and they had alcohol. >> despite that ruling tull said anne the fbicontinued to investigate starting with conversations with family members like alan's step mother, rosalind. >> rosalind, you are aware this interview is being taped, is that correct? >> ye. >> he was swamped with tips, most of them useless, and with reports from people saying they had seen alan get into a car. >> we h several vehicles, white van, green pickup truck that people said he seemed to be getting into. how did they describe -- >> white male in his 30s.
>> that description matched a serial killer on the loose in nearby troit who forced you-- d forced young boys to drink alcohol, raped, and then killed them but tull couldn't prove the man had been in flint. were you thinking it was a stranger? >> i never ruled that out but my most focus was on it had to be somebody he knew. >> meantime, brenda was wrestling with her own suspicions and doubts. she had begun to wonder about alan's resistance to visiti his ther and step mother rosalind that day. what had s missed? what did he tell you about the visits? >> most of the time he would talk about spending time with his dad but as he got older he started acting a little different. a little strange. >> he would come in and be kind of down, a little depressed. we'd ask him what's wrong and he'd say nothing. we used to call it ov to daddy's house syndrome and it wou pass and by next day he'd
be back to normal. >> in her mind brenda replayed over and over rosalind's story about what hpened the day alan disappeared. >> she said she went to mcdonald's and got food and when she got back home she was in a hurry to go to this job interview so she took the food in the house and she came back out and told alan to go ahead and go in. >> for brenda the story just didn't make sense. alan loved mcdonald's, she said. and, more importantly, she just couldn't believe he would have wandered thr miles away to the river. >> alan wasn't that type of child. he didn't go anywhere without permission. >> you didn't like her anyway, d you? >> no. i didn't like how she treated my son and he was so loving and caring and all he wanted to do was please people. >> how come you didn't call your ex-huand and say what's going on? >> wel i did. >> what did he say? >> he thought i was psycho. he thought i was the one that waspsycho, i just needed someone to bla and didn't want to accept it
the reporter at the "flint journal" had his own qutions about rosalind's story. he had gone to visit her for an interview a f days after alan's body was found. >> she just stood and kind of blocked the doorway. the entire time i spoke to her she never lood me in the eye. >> he wandered about what rosalind wasn't saying. >> i just knew there was something that she knew something. even brenda said she thought maybe they went down to the river, he fell in, and she panicked, and so she was trying to cover up the fact that she was down at the river side. >> sergeant tull had little more than the reporter did, rumors, hunches, suspicions. he was very short on the facts. >> other than the toxicology showing alcohol in the system there s no evidence. >> alan's case was in a kind of limbo, classified as an acident and yet not officially closed. as the weeks and the months go on, did it sort of start moving back on the priority list? >> i had no support from anybody on that particular case bcause, quote, it was ruled an
accidental drowning. >> five months after alan disappeared, brenda gave birth to her third son. by nowshe was totally preoccupied with finding out what had happened to alan, saving everything important to him in a small, blue suitcase. she also began unannounced visits to the police. so every time you show up two or three times week on the phone, what are they telling you repeatedly? >> that they're investigating it. >> what had once been holidays on brenda's calendar were now rituals of mourning -- sad visits to alan's grave on his birthday and the anniversary of his death. often brenda would play his music, take out his pictures, and cry. >> i didn't know how to chase that pain away that she was enduring. i didn't know what to do. >> four years after alan's death thegm plant where brenda worked
closed. there was no new information on what had happened to alan. living in flint had become painful. >> in my gut i knew that whoever did this i had trusted my son with. alan didn't go anywhere with strangers. i believed someone did something to him and i believed it was really, really close and i couldn't ve here and not know who that person was. >> the family packed up and movedo california, and there alan began to hat brenda in her dreams. >> it was like he was trying to give me a sign. i said, tell me what happened. tell me what happened. andust he would get ready to tell me and iwould wake up. >> alan couldn't tell her what happened but what about a witness? >> she gave you a statement and basically said she saw rosalind plying this kid wth alcohol. did that set off alarm bells with you? >> had a key piece of evidence
>> cases get cold. this one was ice cold. i mean, it was ice cold. >> yes. >> did it ever like kind of resurface over theears or did it stay pretty much dormant? >> for the most part, itsat on the corner of my desk so i would never forget it. >> now living in california, brenda simpn priodically visited flint, usually around april 12th, the day her son alan disappeared in 1985. using the media to stir up publicity for alan's case. she appeared tv with lead investigator sergeant francis
tull, around 1990. >> i'm hoping that with this interview here that maybe someone that didn't want to talk five years ago will, yo know, decide to come forward. >> a then again by herself a few years later. >> ain't going to give up. jeff smith had now been a reporter with "the flint journal" for nearly a decade. >> she called me out of the blue. >> brenda had come to flint to post flyers seeking information about he son. >> i said of course i'll do something. i kind of thought after all these years it was probably im to no chance of them getting any new information but there was no way was going to tell a mother to give up hope of ever findi out what happened to her child. i can't do that as always, brenda called the cops. >> the girls that answered the phone would say, hold on, brenda. just a minute, brenda.
>> it's brenda. what am i going to say to her? >> what did you say? >> i know, brenda. i'm trying. something to tt effect. were you always telling the truth when you said "i'm trying?" >> yes, yes. i never stoppedtrying. >> brenda didn't either. in part she says because in her dreams alanould never let her rest. >> he never aged. he was still 11 just like when he left. it wasn't like he was in any pan. it was just a drive in the dream to keep pushing. >> brenda tried to focus on her two surviving sons, her husband, and her job. years passed, and her sons grew up and left home. the little boy in her dreams became harder to ignore. >> i knew what he was pushing me to do. he was pushing me to come back to michigan. >> and so in 2002, 17 years after alan's death, brenda and harvey moved back to flint. brenda retraced her well worn path to alan's grave.
she quit work so she could concentrate full-time on finding ut what had happened to her son. she called the police department. she says she didn't hear back so she called again and again. >> now they're trying to dodge my phone calls. they're not answering. >> sergeant tull says he gave brenda all of his phone numbers -- work, cell, and home and aways returned her calls. but brenda still felt she wasn't being heard. she says she finally le him an angry voice mail. i'm coming to put a tent up outside your door and no one else is coming in until you deal with me. >> brenda says that got his attention and hefinally called back. she asked him to bring alan's case file to her house including the autopsy photos which she wanted to look at for the very first time. >> got to see it in my mind and know that's my child. >> the photos were devastating. but brenda found something else
in the file that changed her mind about the entire investigatn. this statement taken from a woman claiming to have seen alan's step mother rosalind and her brother forcing alan to drink alcohol and sexually abusing him in the months before he died. the woman also said she overheard them boast about forcing alan to walk the plank. >> walk the plank was the term that was used in this statement. >> that was sitting right in the file the whole time. >> yeah. ever since may of '85. >> sergeant tu is the person who conducted the 1985 interview with that woman. when we ked him about it he had only a vague recollection of that statement and the woman who had given it 20 years earlier. >> she comes to the station, gives you a statement,nd basically said she saw rosalind plying this kid with alcohol. did that set off alarm bells with you? >> yeh. if that was the case there had to be more to it. we would have definitely focused
on that. >> tull says he and thebi followed up on a lot of allegations at the time of alan's death. none of them led anywhere. but brenda could not believe that statement had sat untouched for all of those years. >> i had to tell him, i says, what are we going to do? i don't want him to know hw upset i am. >> you're trying to be cal >> i am trying to be calm because i know i got to do something. so he tells me, well i'm going to take it back and have more people look at it. okay. >> by this time brea was completely disillusioned with tull and his efforts. but it no longer mattered. tulletired and the case was assigned to a new detective who asked her to be patient. soon, she says, he, too, was dodging her calls. >> so it ge you more fire. >> right. whenever they told me no, it made me fight harder. >> once again, brendaturned to repoer jeff smith at the "flint journal." >> called me up again, didn't
have to identi herself because i recognized her voice. >> jeff went to brenda's house and looked through the files. >> that just really kind of shook her world. when she saw the notes. she just knew at that point that the police had really boggled the case, really dropped the ball there. >> he wrote this article published on the 19th anniversary of alan's death saying brenda was threatening to rn up the pressure on police and to start singing about the specifics of the case if authorities did not make headway sn. the next day, 9:00 a.m. sharp, came a call from the police department asking brenda to come in to talk. and there she met the man who would become her hero. >> you smile when you say his name. >> he was the first person who would listen to me and it didn't take him very longto tell me that it was murder and he wou prove it.
>> but how? he'd start by talking with one of the last people to see an alive. >> i blame myself for a long time because i let him go. >> rosalind's story finally comes out. >> to hear that, what did that feel like f you finally? >> when "cracked, the caves se the little boy lost" continues. trailer insurance... d ...as well as motorcycle insurance... gecko: oh...sorry, technical difficulties. boss: uh...what about this? gecko: what's this one do? gecko: um...maybe that one. ♪ dance music boss: ok, let's keep rolling. we're on motorcycle insurance. vo: take fifteen minutes to see how much you can save on motorcycle, rv, and camper insurance. ♪ bye! bye! ♪ hi. hey!
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time detective gerald parks took over the investigation into the death of alan brown. parks was retired and worked as an adviser to the flint cold case squad for a dollar a month. >> let' be clear. every month for all your work you get paid $1? >> right. a month. >> a month. >> at the end of the year i get a little better than $ because uncle sam is going to get his share. how you doing? >> you're looking mighty good. brenda says parks did something no one else had done -- listened to her and included her in the investigation. >> he started pecing it together, calling me, asking me about peopl all this stuff that's been in here. >> detective parks began by digging into the little blue suitcase brenda had filled over the years with information about alan. >> she had amazgly a lot of stuff that really helped us in our case. >> parks said right away he agreed this was no accidental drowning. >> you're about river from the
you were going to go fishing and you're a young, 11-year-old boy, the first thing you'd have took was your fishing pole. he didn't. >> i'll start with friday and we'll g from there. >> parks reviewed the case files. he constructed a timeline for the day alan disappeared, starting with the moment his step mom, rosalind, picked him up at his aunt's house. >> he was with his aunt the day that he was -- he disappred. we talked to the aunt. she is very, very good. >> rosalind came to pick him up. >> "dateline" also talked to alan's aunt. she remembers quite clearly what happened when rosalind pick him up that afternoon. >> he was just cing and bawling his eyes out. didn't want to go with her. and it was like she was forcing him to get into the car. i've never seen him act like that before. he was beating on the back of the window screaming and hollering, aunt jeannie, please don't let me go. eventually they drove away. >> he had an intuition he was in
trouble. he felt there was something wrong. you that he wa't lik. he wasn't wanted. and he had a fear. >> i blameyself for a long time because i let him go and if i had let him stay maybe -- >> parks' interest in rosalind increased. he studied the statement she had made in 1985 and brought her in forquestioning. the story she told him now was very different from what she had said back then. times changed, facts changed, very basic facts. in 1985 she said her mother was at work. >> wi i went to get my mother. she got out at 2:42 and now? >> your mother was with you? mm-hmm. >> she wasn't working at that time? >> no. >> you sure? >> mm-hmm. >> you can't remember a lie. you can remember things you do and forever and ever because
it's somethg you actually did. but when you t to remember a lie, it's very difficult. >> and then there was this. the statement from the woman claiming to have seen rosalind and her brother, montel pettiford force alan to drink and then sexually molest him in the months before his death. wh parks tracked her down, she provided him with a bigger tip, saying a woman named cathy, who had been married to monl, may actually have seen whatever happened that day. >> so one of the goals was to find whoev this cathy person was. >> that wasn't easy because cathy had left the state and she wasn't easy to find. >> jegerry found her. >> parks and his investigators finally found cathy in north carolina andnterviewed her in the fall of 2004. what she told them would be the first major crack in the case.
for the first time cathy told what she had seen the day alan disappeared. she was now divorced from montel but back in 1985 they were livin here at this house in flint. cathy said she was feeding her infant son when montel and rosalind came into her house supporting alan between them. >> had to help him in the house. >> cathy said the two brought alan into the spare bedroom. next montel came into the kitcn carrying a small, brown bottle with a skull and cross bones on it. >> he just opened the bottle and put it in there. >> what did he put it in, do you remember? >> she said montel poured clear liquid from the bottle into some grape kool-aid and also into the eggs given to christopher alan. >> he went in and he had this and did youee chris drink this? >> yes, chris drank this. >> why had she kept this horrible secret all of these years?
cathy said montel frequently beat hernd on that day he held up the small bottle of poison and told her that if she told anyone she and her baby would be next. parks called rosalind back in saying he now had an eyewitness implicating her and he threatened herith prison for life if she didn't start talking. >> i knew from day one. >> coming up, rosalind's story finally comes out. to hear that, what did that feel like for you, finally? b would it bring the justice she so badly wanted? >> i just -- i just brokedown. >> when "cracked, the case of he little boy lost" continues.
i did not do it. >> i got an eyewitness. >> they lying. >> in november, 2004, retired detective gerald parks brought rosalind brown in yet again to discuss the death of her 11-year-old step son, alan. this time he had something he hadn't had before -- incriminating, eyewitness testimony placing her at the scene. >> they are lying. i did not do none of that. >> parks and his investigators pushed. >> what choice do you have here, going to prison the rest of your
life? >> after more than four hours of interrogation rosalind admitted she and her brother montel had taken alan to the river that day but bled his death on her brother. >> i took montel to the river. he threw him in. i didn't see him. i didn't touch him. i never touched the boy. and i went home. now you talk to montel. he's going to say i did it. go ahead. i'll be a witness, whatever you want me to . just please. >> after all of these years you learned that your sonas in fact poisoned and it looks like your ex-husband's wife may be responsible. to hear that, what did that feel like for you finally? >> i was right all the time. that's what it felt like. it felt like i was right all the time. >> detective parks now had the big break he needed, enough evidence to get court permission to exhume the little boy's body to get a new autopsy and finally
have alan's death classified as a homicide. he took all of that to the district attorney. >> we think we know what happened. we think it was a homicide. and we think we know who did it. but that's stillot enough. >> in may of 2005, stating there simply was not enough evidence for a conviction, the district attorney declined to indict rosalind brown anderrother montel. for the past three months, simpson says she has waited, hoping an arrest warrant would be issued, but late last week she learned her dreams of closing the case once and for all would have to wait a little longer. >> felt like somebody kicked me in my gut. i was so devastated i got on the couch and i laid on the couch for two days. i didn't hardly eat or drink anytng. finally after a couple days i get up off the couch and i said, pick yourself up. we have one more fight left in you. and i told my husband and we go downtown and i start the process
of trying to get to the attorney general's office. i'm not taking no for an answer. >> the da tellsou no you go to the attorney general. there is someone else. >> yes. another door to kick open. >> and behind that door was a young assistant attorney general orende patterson who found 22 years of accumulated evidence now squarely in his lap. >> first thought was it's not going to go anywhere. it's not going to result in any arges. going to make an honest effort of going through the box, review it, writing a memorandum stating why. couldn't do it the prosecutor had not counted on brenda. >> nothing in this world was going to stop her from pursuing this. that was her son. >> she called him weekly, sometimes daily. his updates gradually convinced her he was taking